Harvard College Women’s Center Holds Conference

The Harvard College Women’s Center held its inaugural New England Women’s Center Conference this past weekend, during which participants discussed how to most effectively run a collegiate women’s center.

Conference participants included women’s center directors and student staffers from colleges and universities such as Middlebury College, Greenwich Community College, Bentley University, and Lesley College in Cambridge.

Breakout session dialogues ranged from how to publicize that women’s centers welcome all genders to how to gain more visibility on campus to how to prevent sexual violence.

“The purpose of this conference is to build a sense of solidarity among women’s centers, and to use our collective knowledge to increase the impact of what each of us can do,” HCWC Susan B. Marine wrote in an e-mail. “Women’s centers have a unique mission on a college campus, and it’s easier to talk about challenges among those who already understand them and can strategize together about solutions.”

Throughout the two-day conference, participants discussed how third-wave feminism—a term that encompasses feminist activism from the 1980s onward—has also fought against other forms of bigotry, such as racism and homophobia.

Bradley L. Craig ’13, a Center intern, highlighted in his keynote speech the importance of the Harvard women’s center.

“At Harvard, a school where the politics of space run wide and deep, the importance of the space of the women’s center can not be overstated,” Craig said. “The Women’s center represent the University’s commitment to the well-being of the entire student body. The women’s center bring [students] together by emphasizing what unites us instead of what makes us different.”

For Nicole Macheski, a student staffer for the women’s center at Greenfield Community College, the conference led her to recognize the potential of a women’s center to provide resources for groups other than women.

“Being at a community college, our center is a small space where women come together, but I’ve learned here through discussion with these other women how centers can be used to address other issues such as sexuality and race,” Macheski said.

Participant Paula M. Chandoha, a board member for the Cambridge-based nonprofit Theological Opportunities Project, echoed Craig’s earlier sentiments.

“This conference has confirmed to all of us that women’s centers are integral to the community, especially in a university setting,” she said.

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu.